Rose of Jericho – remembering war – November 11, 2017

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Beside a few delicate teacups and a piece of scrimshaw, on a shelf in a glass-fronted cabinet, my mother kept a pepperpot. It was of classic Georgian shape, a tiny phallic basilica of a thing, not silver, but made from dark golden imitation wood, intricately carved with designs of multiform roses. You unscrewed the dome and put in the ground pepper; but it you unscrewed the base you found a secret compartment in which my mother kept a treasured twig. This twig was a small shrivelled claw from a bush called the Rose of Jericho, and it came from somewhere in the Middle East, a souvenir brought home to Tasmania from the First World War by an uncle.

Take the twig from its hiding-place and submerge it in water for about twenty minutes. The dried-up claw, in the water, gradually opens out, stretches tendrils, until it blossoms, resembles a freshly-picked bunch of soft brown herb. Tiny bubbles of ancient air bead the delicate branches. Then take it out of the water, let it dry, and when it is utterly shrivelled and dead, replace it in the secret compartment. Return the pepper-pot to its place in the cabinet.

So the Rose of Jericho is now in my possession. I keep it in a cupboard with such things as old prayer-books and a pair of small white china hands. I removed these hands from my grandmother’s grave after vandals had trashed all the ornaments, leaving the hands behind. Whenever I take the twig from its hiding-place and let it come to life again, like a beloved piece of music, played over and over, it can make me stop quite still, make me hold my breath, stare in simple amazement. And it can trigger memories long rested. Sometimes I remember to bring it to life on November 11, when many Australians remember wars, in particular the two world wars.

 

7 thoughts on “Rose of Jericho – remembering war – November 11, 2017

  1. I concur with Sarah. A lovely peace, and how fascinating that you can repeat that operation again and again. The most difficult thing I find about decluttering is less the objects themselves than the memories they evoke. I fear (no, I know) that to lose the object is to lose (in most cases) the memory!

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    • Thank you for your comment. That is very kind. I know so little about decluttering, possibly because I don’t see such objects as the Rose of Jericho as ‘clutter’. It, and quite a lot of other objects, are simply part of the fabric of life as it now is – however I do realise that the fabric changes over time. It has never occurred to me to remove the Rose – or for that matter the hands or the prayer books and many other things – from the shelf. I realise I do in fact USE them all. At present I am trying to find (on a shelf somewhere) the tiniest book of fairytales that I own. It’s about one inch square. It will turn up in a minute. I need to use it.

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      • Oh you make me laugh Carmel!

        No, in one sense these things are definitely not clutter. But I’m realising that I’m not going to be able to take them with me, so one day I’ll HAVE to separate – and maybe, so the thinking goes, it would be good to separate a bit earlier (particularly if I want to separate from my now too large house). However, I’m not very good at it. I am in bed, when I make my plan for the day, but when I get up and face the things, all willpower goes. (In recent years, I’ve had a mother-in-law die, an aunt die, and my elderly parents downsize to a retirement village, and I took on too much of THEIR clutter because – well, I think you know the reason. But, what was I thinking!)

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  2. Ah – memory, love and sentimentality – yes. But I have to say that the rate at which you READ and comment, I can’t understand how you even have time to go to bed, let alone make plans (or have lunch or prune the roses).

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    • Yep, all of those. And I love using the things from those people so most of it is worth it (but I probably got a bit carried away).

      I’m glad you didn’t mention housework because I definitely don’t seem to find time for that!

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  3. Pingback: a pair of small china hands | Colours in Black and White

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